Ratebeer.com’s best-beer statistics are always interesting. Often, I agree. But when they name: Struise Brouwers, a brewery in Belgium I’ve never heard of as the “best brewer in the world,” I couldn’t help myself, I was skeptical. Basically, the little contract brewery got the most votes in a system Ratebeer uses that gives more weight to expert beer raters. Still? The best?
So I asked the ultimate English language expert: Tim Webb, author of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium series, published by the English Campaign for Real Ale. He’s English, has traveled widely in Belgium for years and really knows his Belgian beer. Here’s Tim’s reply:
I appreciate what they are trying to do and they are very good at helping to put beer on the map, which is an excellent thing. However, they nearly buried Westvleteren with the ludicrous claim that they produced ‘the best beer in the world’ (shouldn’t that have been ‘pretty good beers from the world’s cutest sounding brewery?)
Now they nominate a brewing firm that has not even invested in a brewery (and anyway is only be a couple of years old) to be the very finest producers of our favoured beverage anywhere on Earth. I mean is that likely? I think not.
Do you get to gain great expertise that quickly? I hope not.
All adolescents get crushes – it’s part of growing up.
‘A Brewery that a bunch of beer drinkers are most impressed by recently’ would be fine, no problem. Best brewers in the world? Give me a break. Covering it could make a good piece on the limits to the value of opinions but PLEASE don’t add to the embarasment by giving this naieve glee-chant unearned credibility.
On the factual side, Struise Brouwers is a switched-on bunch of business-like young beer makers and if they can carry on their early promise may yet become great brewery owners, as opposed to interesting beer makers. I do not know of the extent of their training – they could have masters degrees at one of the Ghent brewing schools or be home brewers with a passion, I have no idea which.
They began by brewing several rather dull beers at Caulier – a wheat beer, an amber and a blond as I recall. They moved the operation to Deca after De Ranke moved out to a brewery of their own. Then out of nowhere they pulled out some high strength beers with an aged element.
I doubt their beers have all been oak-aged. At least one that stayed on the market was badly faulty – flat as a pancake – and one given to me by them to take away from Zythos Beer Festival exploded a month or two later with all the usual suspects asssitings its lava flow into the sink. On the other hand, the rest I have tried have been a a spectrum from pretty good to seriously interesting. If you want to be an opinion maker you’re supposed to act responsibly.
They are good enough for one beer to feature in ‘100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die’, which I have written with Joris Pattyn and which will appear on www.booksaboutbeer.com from 1st September this year. Only two other non-brewery-owners get that privilege – with Senne brewery getting three listed BTW.
They are certainly on a roll in the U..S by the sound of it, but then yours is a nation that has at times raved about Fantome and Michelob. In my view their elevation to the heavenly choirs is premature, and more the expression of exuberant enthusiasm rather a studied observation of excellence.
I am slightly biased by my view that the whole concept of a ‘best beer / brewery’ is pure Disney and very very American. If someone could explain to me how you judge Keesmann Herren Pils in a heads up against,say, Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, Nogne O Imperial Stout and Saison Dupont I might take the concept more seriously but till then I am afraid I will put it in the ‘Yankee Tosh’ file along with the latest efforts to get all sentimental about Bud.
By the way, Tim says his next edition of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium comes out in June, 2009. Order the current volume at www.booksaboutbeer.com.